The rank and file of the Indian National Congress (INC) suspect that their man in charge of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in Haryana, Vivek Bansal, is responsible for the failure to secure a victory for the party candidate Ajay Maken in the Rajya Sabha election despite Haryana Congress having adequate numbers in the legislative assembly.
Despite being Maken’s agent for the 10 June election for a seat from Haryana for the upper house of the Indian parliament, Bansal could not prevent the “wrong vote” of an MLA that sealed the fate of the Delhi politician although it was the mandate of the person in charge to check every party legislator’s marked ballot before being cast. He was expected to be on his guard especially as Haryana Congress had been anticipating the sulking dissident leader Kuldeep Bishnoi to indulge in “cross-voting” in the poll.
The AICC leadership has asked Bansal to “identify” the party MLA whose vote was rejected due to the ballot paper being ‘wrongly marked’, which led to Maken’s defeat at the hands of the ruling BJP-JJP-backed Independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma in a photo finish that stretched till the wee hours of 11 June. Maken lost to Sharma by just 2/3rd of one vote. The BJP candidate in the fray, Krishan Panwar, sailed through smoothly.
The INC leadership had appointed Bansal, a former UP MLA, as its Haryana in-charge in September 2020, replacing party veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad. Haryana Congress has been a formidable assignment for Bansal from the beginning, thanks to the internal feud in state unit for long.
The 63-year-old Bansal hails from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. The last time he won the assembly election was in 2002 from Aligarh. Since then, he has been losing from Koil. He lost the 2012 poll by a mere 500 votes to a Samajwadi Party candidate while in 2017 and 2022, he finished third behind the candidates of the BJP and SP.
Bansal’s affidavit filed with the Election Commission for the 2022 election says Bansal had assets worth over Rs 5 crore and his primary source of earning is “rental income and others”. He also had several criminal cases registered against him, most of which were “not-serious” related mainly to Covid-19 violations. He had done his post-graduation from Aligarh Muslim University.
After taking charge of Haryana Congress, Bansal has struggled to keep the faction-ridden Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) united. The AICC leadership recently appointed ex-chief minister and Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s loyalist Udai Bhan as the HPCC president, replacing him with Kumari Selja.
Since the beginning of this task, Bansal has frankly conceded factionalism is a stark reality in Haryana Congress. But while admitting that there are different voices within every party, he says everyone is being heard.
In the wake of the 10 June Rajya Sabha election fiasco, the INC high command has sought a report from Bansal. He says he is close to finding out the MLA of his party who marked his/her ballot-paper “wrongly”.
Bansal said, “There is a way to identify the MLA who filled his/her ballot paper wrongly. I am refreshing my memory. Party high command has sought a report from me and in two-three days, I shall be submitting it.” When asked if he has identified the MLA, he said, “I have zeroed in on three-four of them and shall soon be able to identify that person.”
“The party is analysing the election results in detail. We are carrying out scrutiny to identify which Congress MLA’s vote was cancelled. The counting agent of Congress knows the ballot number of that MLA,” Hooda said.